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Overboard Blog

Living the extraordinary life of faith!

Filtering by Tag: God's grace

Be Humble You Arrogant Geek!

Joseph Castaneda



Humility is one of those strange qualities that's a little hard to talk about in Christian circles, and especially if you are talking about yourself. How do you talk about being humble while...being humble?

The problem is that when we think of humility, it's often viewed as one of those "negative" attributes; it's not what you have or do, it's what you aren't supposed to have or do that defines it. You aren't supposed to be proud or arrogant or to think too highly of yourself if you are going to be humble. All of these things are true.

But I think the essence of humility isn't what you are lacking, but rather, what you possess: a proper perspective on your need for God! One of the biblical definitions of the greek word used in 1 Peter 5 is: "To be ranked below others who are honored or rewarded."

When I remember who it is that should be honored for my life, and I keep HIM as the one that is elevated, then I am truly living a humble life. I can't be arrogant or haughty when I'm making it about Jesus and keeping the perspective that He matters most. When I live with this perspective of how much I need God and that my life needs to be about Him, whatever I do brings Him praise (Colossians 3:17).

Then, if I'm speaking in front of thousands, giving a significant boardroom presentation, counseling a friend, cleaning the house, building a skyscraper in the middle of the city, or doing my homework, I am one of HIs humble servants. The trick is keeping "me" in the right place.

After a bunch of amazing weeks of speaking last summer, I was reminded about how much I need God. I can't imagine completing five straight weeks of speaking without His grace! I look back and can see how God showed up at each camp, how He changed lives for eternity, and many campers and staff were compelled to be more humbled before Him because His Word was preached and their lives were changed. I couldn’t do any of that, only God can.

Life can be so difficult and messy, and especially so when you and I become the focus of each day. Let's keep the words of Peter fresh in our minds this week as we seek to keep this life about Him and His glory, so that in our humility He can lift us to where we need to be. My friend Steve Etner often says, "I need to dethrone King Me!" Indeed, lets make sure the right King is in the position of honor in our hearts.

You ever watch a child run into traffic?


Last month, Traci and I, and our three amazing kids, were on our West Coast road trip from Michigan. During six weeks of travel, we logged 10,860 miles and countless hours of fun with friends and family. It was a great trip to rest, recruit supporters for Overboard Ministries and to prepare our hearts for the work God has for us here in Michigan. A week after my oldest niece’s wedding, we spent 7 days with my brother Dan (it was his daughter’s wedding) and his two youngest children. It was a fantastic week for all of us. The hundred degree weather made his pool perfect for daily swims and time with his family was a real treat.

My nephew Steven at the wedding of his brother, Andrew. As you can see, our daughter CJ loves her cousin!

Dan’s youngest -- my nephew Steven -- is a great young man, today. 20 years old, he loves the Lord, and loves adventure in life. He’s a lot of fun to be around, and my son AJ especially enjoys hanging out with him.

One sunny afternoon while watching him play games with my kids in the pool, I took a little stroll down memory lane. I have a lot of memories of Baboochka (that of course, is his preferred name!), and one in particular that still makes my heart race when I think about it.

Steven was probably just three or four years old, and all of us took an afternoon to visit Bush Park in Salem, Oregon. We were walking along Mission street (a particularly busy street) preparing to enter the park, when Steven, suddenly and rather inexplicably, bolted toward Mission street. It was moment of sheer terror for everyone as he scooted between two parked cars and prepared to emerge on a street with vehicles traveling 35-45 mph.

My brother’s parental instincts kicked in, and he jumped down a little embankment and bounded between two cars to catch Steve as he was a step away from entering into a lane of traffic. Honestly, a second or two later, and that might have been the last memory our family would have had of Steven. My brother saved his son’s life.

Watching Steven jump in the pool as a 20-year-old man, I’m thankful for my brother’s quick thinking, and his decision to grab Steve’s hand and yank him to safety. There was no debate, there was no, “Steven, you get back up here right now, or you’re gonna get hit by car. Oh yeah, young man, when you get hit by a car doing 45, you’ll be sorry you didn’t listen to me!” No. He jumped into danger, grabbed his son’s hand and pulled him back to safety.

I’m thinking about that story again today, as I’ve been meditating on Isaiah 41:13: “For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you’” (NIV). I like how The Message paraphrases it: “That’s Right. Because I, your God, have a firm grip on you and I’m not letting go. I’m telling you, ‘Don’t panic. I’m right here to help you.’”

I love that verse. God “takes hold of [my] right hand” -- He has a “firm grip on [me]” -- and He’s here to help. Like my brother jumping out to help his son avoid serious injury, God is taking hold of you and me, and notice that He’s not waiting for us to reach out to Him! My brother Dan didn’t wait for Steven to realize the gravity of his situation, and likewise, God isn’t waiting for you and I to come to our senses before He offers help. He initiates. He grabs our hand. He helps.

Of course, we can resist His help, we can reject His work in our lives, but thankfully, He still doesn’t give up and He doesn’t quit. Sure, He might up the ante, He might increase the pressure to help persuade us to trust Him, but He doesn’t give up helping us. He wants us to grow to be more and more like His Son, Jesus.

I’m thankful for God’s help. I’m thankful He keeps grabbing my hand and I’m thankful for His reminder that I don’t need to fear or panic; He’s here to help.

How can you surrender to God’s help today? How can you redirect your focus from fear of circumstances, to faith in a God who helps? From anxiety to peace? From fear of the unknown to trust in the One who knows everything?

He’s taking hold of you, and He wants to help.

Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!



Our friend, and the kids' youth pastor, Bruce Banwell gave a full day (plus!) to help us load and unload boxes on moving day. Earlier this week, my wife wrote a great blog about the humble blessing of being the recipients of so much kindness from others. (Seriously, it's short, sweet and worth reading!) I think Traci and I have always considered ourselves ridiculously blessed when we think about the friendships God has given us, but lately, that blessing has been almost too much to handle. In Psalm 23, David wrote, “ cup overflows” in talking about God’s goodness to him. Traci and I can surely relate to the way God has showered us with His kindness, through His people, the last two months.

I have learned a bit about myself during this seasons of blessing. First of all, I’m learning to be a better receiver, but I’ve still got a ways to go. Over the years, God has allowed Traci and I to be on the giving end of His grace and goodness, and we have experienced the joy of the scriptural truth, “It is better to give, than to receive.” During this season of receiving, we have had the joy of allowing others to be the conduit of His grace and goodness. It is humbling, but it is special to see how God meets needs in ways we could never have imagined. Without a doubt, these stories will one day make it into a book, as will the lessons I’m learning!

Not only am I learning to be a better receiver, I’m also learning to embrace God’s plan regardless of how crazy it seems from my limited perspective. As Traci and I have followed the Lord through this wild season of change, His blessings in our lives have followed us along the way! When I first lost my job back in January, we toyed with the idea of just licking our wounds, washing our hands of the problems and packing our things to head back to Oregon. Yesterday, while taking a stress-relieving walk together, Traci and I talked about everything we would have missed out on, had we just packed up and headed west. Truly, following God despite the crazy limited perspective we have, has proven to be spiritually, emotionally, financially and relationally richer than any path we could have made for ourselves.

Finally, I’m learning how rich I am in regards to the way God showers us with His grace and goodness through His children. More than once I’ve shed tears over the gifts that have sustained us through this season of uncertainty. More than once I’ve sat dumbfounded at how an exact need was met, a meal was provided, a gas tank was filled, a debt was paid, a box of goodies arrived in the mail, a helping hand was offered or a special provision showed up just in time. Each time one of those things happened, there was another human on the giving end.

Could God miraculously drop a pot of gold into the back of our van? Yes! (And Lord, just so you know, we’re open to that idea, too!) Instead, He most often chooses to use others to be the conduit of His work. Sometimes anonymously, sometimes with a special card and note, sometimes with a smile, sometimes with a back story that only God could write and sometimes with a hug and a “God told me to do this for you.” Truly, based on the people in our lives -- from Oregon, Michigan, West Virginia, California and everywhere in-between and beyond! -- we are richly blessed. THANK YOU for your prayers, your love, your emails, your gifts, your texts, your monthly support and most of all, your friendship.

As we move into the next phase of our journey, we are confident that God is leading the way, and that we will continue to experience the richest blessing of all -- meaningful relationships with people who will share this journey with us!

Go ahead and take the plunge, the best friendships you ever have, will be forged on the water where Jesus is building His Kingdom!

If you want to learn more about the next phase of our journey, check out this 10 minute video explaining how we’re taking Overboard Ministries, overboard! If you would like to join the Overboard family thru prayer or thru monthly financial support, click the links! (For monthly support, click the link, choose one of the three options, and then select "Joseph Castaneda" from the drop-down menu. Remember, all gifts are fully tax-deductible!)

The 3 P's of parenting: Poop, pee and puke. All in one night.


Before you have children, you are fairly grossed out by most bodily expulsions. For example, the thought of taking a damp cloth and wiping someone’s nasty little rear end is mostly disgusting. The thought of doing that five or six times a day is positively repulsive. What about pants that were peed on through the diaper that was advertised as being able to hold the entire contents of a whale’s bladder? Yeah, you touch those too, and yeah, no matter how careful you are, you touch a wet spot or two. Or three. And finally, the puked on shirt. It’s a miracle when the puke is only on the baby’s shirt! That’s almost reason to rejoice, mainly because that never happens. Babies are actually genetically engineered by God, to puke only when in close proximity to your cleanest garments.  

Ahhhhhh, parenthood.


If you’ve been blessed with children, you know you wouldn’t give your child back for all the money in the world! No amount of disgusting clean up could ever change how much you love your child. In fact, to the contrary, your capacity to take care of your child in their mess speaks volumes of your love.


When AJ was less than a year old, he was sleeping in his “big-boy” bed, and doing pretty well. One night, Traci and I tucked him into bed, and a couple of hours after we went to sleep, I was awakened by his cries for mommy and daddy. I told Traci that I’d take this one, so I got up and headed into his room. I was not prepared for the ambush that awaited me.


Don't be fooled by that cuteness, that kid's a 3P expert!

My little 12-month-old boy was sitting up, having just thrown up his latest meal. The room reeked of vomit...and what was that other sweet odor? Oh yes, he had clearly pooped in his pajamas, too. He did not look good, he was crying out and holding up his hands, begging for someone to pick him up. I just laughed. I told him when he got himself all cleaned up, I’d be glad to hold him, and then I went back to bed. “That little baby can take care of himself” I said to Traci as I lulled myself back to sleep.


Not really.


Instead, I called for backup and then I moved in and picked up my sweet little sprinkler head. He began to projectile vomit all over the room as I held him and tried to comfort him. Traci came in and almost dry heaved (she was pregnant) at the smell, but she didn’t have the joy of feeling the warm sensation I was feeling on my arm as AJ was emptying his bowels and bladder onto my shirt. The little flu bug he had was hitting our city hard, and later we learned that children were experiencing “severe reactions including diarrhea, violent vomiting” and, apparently, “total loss of bladder control.” I felt like AJ’s personal toilet.


We finally confined his projections to a blanket, he stopped firing, and ultimately calmed down. We washed him up in the bathroom, dried him off and like most traumatic events in a child’s life, he went to sleep and forgot all about it, while Traci and I spent the next hour cleaning up his room. We used an entire spray bottle of F’breeze, excessive amounts of carpet cleaner and went through five or six towels getting everything soaked up out of the carpet. I started the nastiest load of laundry I’ve ever done in my life. It was well past the middle-of-the-night when we finished cleaning up.


AJ and Traci in spain, 2001.

When we were done, Traci headed back to bed and I went in and checked on AJ one more time. As I sat there thinking about him holding out his hands, begging for me to pick him up -- I kid you not -- I began to tear up. It wasn’t just the foul odor that still filled my nostrils (I should have shot a spray of F’breeze up there!) it was the reality of the moment, the clarity of what had just happened.


In the moment of distress, it didn’t even cross my mind, but as I sat there afterward it seemed so obvious. My poor son, desperate for help, crying out for someone to hold him while sitting in his personal filth, was me. In fact, it is you and it is anyone who has ever walked on the face of the earth, except One. We are born with a condition that makes it impossible for us to know God on our own. We’re like AJ, we have no capacity to clean ourselves up, but just like my son, when we cry out for help, God comes to us.


And here’s the thing -- God doesn’t wait for you and I to clean up before He steps in. He doesn’t say, “You’ve lived a bad life, Joe. I’d like to have a relationship with you, but you’re going to have to do more to make me happy; you’re going to have to clean up your messy life and then I’ll hang out with you.” Instead He comes to me in my spiritual filth and offers a clean slate. He offers to do the cleaning, He just asks me to trust and follow Him.


I don’t know where you’ve come from or where you’re living right now, but I do know this: God is eager to help you clean up. He sees you for what you are, He knows all you’ve done, He’s been watching you puke, poop and pee your spiritual pants for years, and He’s ready to take you, just as you are. And once you enter into that relationship with Him, you become a son or daughter to Him, and the relationship never ends. Just as you could never do anything to begin the relationship, there is nothing you could do to end it, either.


I’m so glad God came into my life and cleaned me up. And I don’t know where I’d be today if He had abandoned me in those moments where I chose to return to my filth. But that’s the greatness of God, and truly one of the mysteries of His ways: He doesn’t leave us. We don’t deserve Him, we could never do enough to keep Him happy and pleased with us on our own, but He still comes to us. He still chooses to live with us, to take us in and always, always, offers forgiveness, hope and healing when we need it most. Somehow, in the craziness of the ups and does of life, He delights in us and loves to call us His children. Even though we never stop messing up our pants (hopefully we just mess them up less and less as we get older!), He never stops loving us.


Do you know His love? Have you come to Him and asked for a clean shirt? You can’t clean yourself up, so quit trying. You will never impress God with your own righteousness, so quit trying religion over a relationship. Instead, turn to Him in faith. Believe that He has opened a door for you through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and all you have to do is believe: Believe you’re stuck without Him. Believe you can’t save yourself. Believe that Jesus paid the price you couldn’t. Believe that God offers it freely to you.


You can’t live the Overboard Life without Jesus. He makes life on the water possible and remarkable!

30 down, 10 to go.

Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!

Birth and other messy things


At 3am on May 24th, 1974, I started making my wishes for an appearance, known. While they didn’t often do ultrasounds in those days to determine a child’s gender, my mom had that motherly instinct that assured her I was a chunky boy. And a few hours after I started plotting an escape from my maternal holding tank, a doctor facilitated my release and all 8+ pounds of me emerged.  

My next oldest sibling had tortured my mom for 33 hour of labor, so despite my size -- “the biggest of the brood” -- the time reduction was welcomed by my mom. And as they played the birthing song in the hospital lobby (dad’s didn’t often join their wives in the birthing room in those days), my father knew he had a third son and the name had already been chosen: Joseph Aaron Castañeda.


Birth is messy. If you’ve ever had the experience of seeing new life enter in this world, you know the mess of which I speak. Sitting bed-side while my wife gave birth to all three of our children, I had a front row seat to the natural carnage. I’ll spare you the details, but there is nothing glamorous about birth.


And yet, birth is incredibly beautiful. After my wife had labored for over 15 hours, our firstborn emerged reluctantly. In an instant, the pain of child bearing disappeared, tears of joy replaced tears of pain and in the majesty of the moment, both Traci and I turned our attention to the baby boy nestled in a blanket, resting on her chest. There are few things more beautiful than watching a mom hold her new born baby after enduring labor.

even in pink


I don’t think it’s an accident that birth is messy and beautiful -- it’s a metaphor for the life that will be experienced by the new child. Life is messy. Read the paper, watch the news or follow the top online headlines for a week and you’ll know just how messy it can be. Since Adam and Eve chose to disobey God in Genesis 3, the messiness of life has followed humanity like a haunting shadow.


Messiness is the reality of a busted up world. Yet intersecting with the reality of messiness is the fact that beauty is emerging all around us. Just as Adam and Eve experienced God’s grace and forgiveness following their moral failure, that same grace and goodness shows up in the greatest darknesses of this life.


Just as the pain and mess of childbirth fades when the mom holds her new baby, the messiness of life pales when God’s grace shines through. Paul said it this way in 2 Corinthians 4: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” The big-picture of God’s grace makes the messiness of this life worth it!


Have you experienced the messiness of this life? Maybe you are enjoying a break, or maybe you are living in the muck right now! Let me assure you that life starts messy, and stays messy until it ends. What makes it worth living is the grace that God provides -- the hope that only He can give as we follow Him.


I’m glad my parents brought me into this messy world. I’m thankful for how they raised me and taught me to live in the mess but not be overcome by it (more on that in the blog posts to follow). But more than anything, I’m thankful for a God who knows the big-picture, and provides grace sufficient for every moment of every day so that I can enjoy the beauty that this life offers.


2 down, 38 to go.


Go ahead and take the plunge, the beauty of life is seen clearest out on the water!

Just enough


It’s funny how God teaches us lessons in unexpected ways and places. One day last week I decided to sneak out of the office a few minutes early and play a quick round of 9 at a nearby golf course. It was a beautiful day. I grabbed my clubs, confirmed that I had a few golf balls for the round (3) and headed out confident that I was going to shoot a Phil Mickelson-esque round of golf.

I was right on at least one count: it was a beautiful day.

I dropped my first two tee shots into the water. Normally, when I botch the first shot of the first hole, I keep shooting until I get a nice “first shot” -- usually my second tee shot works fine. But since I was down to just one golf ball, I decided to take a safe drop on the other side of the water and continue my round. One ball should probably make it the rest of the way, at least that’s what I confidently assured myself.


While setting up for my very next shot, I found another golf ball. Perfect, now I have two. Then I proceeded to hit my 2nd shot…straight into a ravine that might have been a set for the re-release of Jurassic Park! Seriously! I found the only patch of tropical rainforest in all of northern Michigan! Ball lost.

Thankfully, my newly discovered golf ball gave me one more target to strike and I safely finished the first hole.

The whole round was terrible. But every time I thought I shot my last ball, another one just happened to show up.

For example, on the fourth hole I stroked a sweet 2nd shot with just a slight fade, right down the fairway. Or so I thought. When I got to where my ball landed, it was nowhere to be seen. There was no place for it to hide, it was just missing! But while I walked around looking for it, what did I step on? Another ball, and I was able to finish the 4th.

Every time I was out of golf balls, I found one more to help keep going. In fact, as I walked to the 5th tee box, I had a life lesson hit me upside the head like a well-swung 9 iron (a swing I did not achieve my entire round!): God doesn’t promise to give us a surplus, but He promises to always supply exactly what we need.

Surpluses are nice, and they are indeed a gift from God. I am thankful for the seasons of life where we lived with more than we needed, and where God’s supply could hardly be contained.

And just as surpluses are from God, so are those moments when He supplies ‘just enough’ for that season. that day. that moment. As I was finding golf balls at the exact rate I was losing them, I was reminded that God gives us exactly what we need, precisely when we need it. Paul says it well is 2 Corinthians 9:8:

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

Two more times during the last five holes, I shot away my last golf ball. And two more times I ‘just happened’ to find one more ball to keep going. And when the 9th hole ended, I wrote a very forgettable “54” for my final score and tossed my last golf ball into some thick grass near the green. I figure someone else will be down to their last ball one day, and be glad to discover a new one.

God is a great supplier. He gives us more than we deserve and often, more than we can contain. But I cling to His promises and His sure Word that He will always give me precisely what I need, precisely when I need it. When I pray and seek His provision (physical, financial, spiritual etc…), I can be confident I that I won’t go without my needs being met. And if I don’t have it, God must know that I don’t need it. Yet, when the time is right according to His divine clock, I will find the next golf ball.

Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!

And for those of you scoring at home, after I finished hole number 9, my next 24 shots were nearly perfect. Long straight shots, that were easy to find. In fact, for the rest of the day, I didn’t lose another ball. I just wish I’d had learned my lesson after hole one!

That's how winning is done!


My sports-movie-junkie-buddies and I love to debate the place of particular movies in our Top-10 sports movie lists. We disagree on a lot of films (I admit, I think Field of Dreams should be a top-10 all time!), but when it comes to Rocky…he always makes our lists! Personally, I’m a Rocky IV kind of a guy, because it is so Over the Top (which is another great Stallone movie!) and has that great moment where Rocky’s opponent realizes that Rocky can’t be beat and Rocky realizes his unbeatable opponent is suddenly very beatable. Ahhhh, makes me smile just thinking about it.

But today’s speech comes from Rocky Balboa, the sixth movie in the Rocky franchise. Right before Rocky gives this big speech, his son has just told him that he’s tired of being Rocky’s kid. The boy believes life is stacked against him because of his famous father (Rocky) and the son can’t make it on his own because, right now, there are too many odds against him.

In classic Stallone style, Rocky tells his boy the truth about his current situation. Rocky pleads with his boy to stop being a victim and to step up and own his choices. Seriously, you need to watch this film, it has very little to do with boxing and so much to do with life:


I love the message: “You, me or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!” (Has there been a more eloquent or prolific voice of our day than Rocky?)

The Apostle Paul talked about the beating life deals out in 2 Corinthians 4:7-9:

“We are hard pressed on every side…perplexed…persecuted…struck down…”

The enemy deals out punches and kicks and full frontal assaults on you, especially when you are trying to live the Overboard Life. But check out Paul’s encouragement in the “…” of the above quotes:

“We are hard pressed on every side, BUT NOT crushed.”

“Perplexed, BUT NOT in despair.”

“Persecuted BUT NOT abandoned.”

“Stuck down BUT NOT destroyed.”

How do we live in the hope of these statements? A little later in the chapter Paul gives us the secret: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” The key to standing up and moving forward when life hits hard is to look past the painful and difficult circumstances around us, and to look toward Jesus, whose eternal plan is for our good, and ultimately for His glory. When we focus on Him -- we “can get hit and keep moving forward!”

Don’t give up when you feel bombarded. Don’t surrender ground when the enemy tries to overwhelm you. Don’t relent under the pressure of opposition. For you are not crushed, in despair or abandoned, and you are certainly not destroyed. Through Christ, you will win the prize. And, as Rocky says, “That’s how winning is done!”

Go ahead and take the plunge, life is better on the water.